My Outlook

The faces behind the figures

Want to witness a group of adults polarize faster than a world class athlete runs the 100m? Get them talking; not about Trump or Trudeau, or even climate change or carbon tax. Get them talking about whether or not children should receive an allowance. I'm not kidding. I watched a discussion of financial planners, child psychologists and parents talk about the pros and cons and couldn't believe how intensely they argued their position. There were no fence sitters.

          An allowance teaches responsibility.

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          An allowance is paying children to do things they should be doing anyway.

          An allowance gives kids the message they will always be given free money.

          An allowance helps children understand the value of a dollar.

          And so the teeter-totter continues; back and forth as adults determine what is best in teaching children how to handle money. Of course those lessons can be taught with or without an allowance, but therein lies the key. Lessons about money must be taught. Or at least there needs to be conversation.

Money problems are often cited as a reason for relationship breakdowns, but it is likely more accurate to say that lack of conversation about money is the truer reason. Nearly 60% of couples walking down the aisle have not disclosed their salaries to each other, and even after getting married 30% did not know what their spouse made. Less than 36% were honest about how much debt they were bringing into the relationship.

          Why aren't we more open about money? Or, why aren't we having the kinds of conversations we should be having? We need to demystify it and uncloak what money is…and what it is not.

          I love watching professional sports and sometimes wished I lived close to the cities where my favorite teams play. But as much as I recognize the economic spin-off a franchise can have on a city, I have had so many moments lately when my eyes rolled in disbelief at the contracts being offered to athletes. How did we get here? How did we get to a place that allows a person with an ability to skate or run or dunk a ball to collect signing bonuses and salaries that are larger than some nation's GDP?

          Then again, many athletes and others in the economic stratosphere have to confront the pitfalls that come with all that money. I know, I know, some might say, "Give me that kind of money and I'll happily deal with all the problems!" Well, I think it all depends on who you have around you, sharing in the affluence.

          Last summer my husband and I took our young adult daughters on a vacation, since it had been a few years since the four of us had been able to get away at the same time. As we were sitting at a restaurant we loved, right next to an attraction we thoroughly enjoyed, we got talking about how amazing it would be if we could afford this vacation spot every year. Our oldest daughter thought about that and remarked that all the money in the world wouldn't make it a great vacation if you weren't with people you loved. "We're having such a good time because we like being together," she said. "Even the happiest place on earth wouldn't be very happy if you don't have people you want to share it with."

When I was in elementary school I got an allowance from my parents. I believe it helped develop an understanding of what I placed value on and what I was willing to save up for. For that, and so many other financial lessons, I am grateful. Most of all I learned that the digits, no matter how many there might be, are not what makes anyone rich. Whether it's an allowance, a salary, a bonus, or any other remuneration, when it comes down to the treasury that matters, it's the people…not the pay. That's my outlook.




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